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Survey: As COVID Cases Rise, Consumer Confidence Declines In Southwestern PA

A woman looks at signs at a store in Niles, Ill., on May 13. Shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic have left tens of millions out of work.

A recent survey shows a decline in consumer confidence in southwestern Pennsylvania -- particularly how residents feel about their employment, personal finances, and spending plans -- as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

The survey shows a reversal of what had been a trend earlier in the fall, when people were slowly feeling more positive about the economy. 

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development has been tracking consumer sentiment in the 10-county southwestern Pennsylvania region since the outbreak of the pandemic in March.

“It’s corresponding with a surge in the cases, and people understanding that we are not there…we are actually headed into some rough times,” said Vera Krekanova, the chief strategy and research officer at the Conference.

Consumer confidence is “a force that drives the economy” she said, and is key to peoples’ willingness to spend money.

The latest research was released last week. The downturn in sentiment reflects answers from several hundred people who took the survey in late November.

Since that time, Gov. Tom Wolf has taken additional measures to slow the spread of the virus that could impact the economy, including temporarily suspending indoor dining at restaurants.

Among the survey’s highlights:
- only 18.4% of respondents felt positive about the national economy (down from 25.7% the prior month),
- 39.9% felt positive about their personal finances (down from 51.4%)
- 39% had positive feelings about their future personal financial situation in six months (down from 51.9%)

The survey did show less pessimism about the broader economy in the long-term.

The Allegheny Conference is conducting the surveys with Pittsburgh-based Schmidt Market Research.